Department of Civil Engineering

Image of Andy Sowter

Andy Sowter

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering


  • workRoom B Floor Nottingham Geospatial Building
    Innovation Park
    Triumph Road
    NG7 2TU
  • work0115 82 32765
  • fax0115 95 13881


BSc (Hons) Mathematics (Leicester), 1984

PhD Satellite Orbital Dynamics (Aston), 1989

1987-1990 Senior Research Scientist, GEC-Marconi Research Centre. Expert in the geometric correction of spaceborne SAR data. Management of UK Government of ESA and UK Government contracts.

1990-1993 Principal Systems Engineer, Vega Space Systems Engineering Ltd. Seconded to European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Germany 1990-1991for technical project management support. 1991-1993 seconded to the Joint Research Centre, Italy, generating algorithms for geometric SAR processing and SAR interferometry as part of the joint ESA/CEC TREES Project (monitoring tropical rainforest).

1993-1998 Chief Radargrammetrist, National Remote Sensing Centre Ltd. Support in the use of SAR within large scale operational agricultural projects in the EU. SAR consultant in forestry and geology applications. Development of algorithms for topographic processing of SAR data.

1998-2001 Managing Director, Synoptics Geo Applications Ltd. Development and operation of a commercial SAR stereo capability, mapping areas of SE Asia and Central America. Training in the use of SAR.

2001-Present Lecturer, University of Nottingham. Lecturing support in civil engineering and surveying. Developing research capability in interferometric SAR.

Expertise Summary

Expert in spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors.

Development of algorithms in:

- SAR orthorectification

- SAR stereo

- Interferometric SAR

Support to applications in:

- Agriculture

- Forestry

- Geology

- Topographic Mapping

- Land Subsidence

- Climate Change

Research Summary

My research thoroughly relates to themes in Earth Observation and, specifically, in synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

The two most basic questions that can be asked about Earth Observation data are: 'what is it?' and 'where is it?' So much effort is usually placed into the 'what is it?' question that the latter is often overlooked or often hardly addressed at all. However, all applications, research or operational, require the merging of many different types of data and the usual framework for this is to reference or geolocate data in a common reference system.

I have 25 years worth of experience working to aid specialists in Agriculture, Forestry, Geology, Seismology, Topographic Mapping, Climate Change and Land Subsidence Modelling to make the best out of the SAR data they use. I have designed and implemented methods for:

- SAR orthorectification, the rectification of SAR data to a map frame using a third-party elevation model. I have been designing orthorectification algorithms since 1988 and implemented a major orthorectification program, TSAR, while working at NRSC which was used operationally to process ERS data over the 60 MARS sites in Europe for early season crop area estimation. - SAR stereo, the generation of elevation models and orthorectified images from the SAR data itself. In 1998, I set up a company to automatically generate such products and mapped many areas in 3D, mainly in SE Asia, for the oil-and-gas market. - InSAR and PSI, methods for extracting precise measurements and time series of surface topography change. Since joining the University of Nottingham this has been my main area of research.

The algorithms I have designed are fully automated and result in images and information that are ready-to-use by remote sensing experts in their field. These algorithms are a basic component of any researcher wishing to exploit SAR data for the fullest range of land applications.

My current research in the support, design and development of algorithms and processing chains for the exploitation of SAR data for land applications.

I am currently involved in projects in the UK, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

Selected Publications

Past Research

My PhD was in satellite orbital dynamics. When I completed that, I joined industry, publishing research and conference papers widely in the area of SAR remote sensing. Example projects are:

- An error budget for SAR geocoding (ESA) - The TREES Project (tropical forest monitoring) (EU) - Early Season Crop Estimation (EU) - Leuser Project (topographic monitoring in Sumatra)

Since joining the UoN in 2001, I have been attempting to establish an InSAR research stream. I have been successful in gaining research support from NERC in terms of PhD studentships and some external consultancy from the Western Australia School of Mines and Manchester University.

Future Research

I am currently writing proposals regarding the utilisation of SAR data in support of the following applications:

- Agricultural monitoring - Earthquake Modelling - Geology - Topographic Mapping - DEM generation - Sustainable Agriculture - Climate Change - Land Subsidence

Faculty of Engineering

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3134